Friday, 7 August 2009

A Guide to YA Blogging

A few weeks back I thought it would be a great idea to ask YA authors and bloggers about what they expected of one another in the blogosphere. The list below is a collation of recommended conduct that you might use as a guide when starting a blog, or to see how your expectations match up to everyone elses. Forty YA review bloggers (new and established) and authors (unpublished, debut and established) were asked to contribute their expectations to construct a comprehensive list.

The most important message from all contributors was that being polite is essential.

Authors and bloggers alike were very honest in their contributions and as such I have chosen to keep this anonymous. Hopefully this can be a document that guides new bloggers around mistakes that all of us have made. I have learnt a considerable amount just from reading them as they came in.

One author’s suggestion really struck a chord with me and I think it’s the best piece of advice for all bloggers - “...find the right balance between professionalism and fun.”

• Do away with expectations. Don’t think you deserve a review copy because you started a blog.
• Authors would love to give ARCs to every book blogger who asks but they don’t have unlimited supplies of ARCs. If authors say that they can’t, they really can’t - but they wish they could. Say please and thank you and most importantly, don’t be bitter.
• Check the author’s review policies before contacting them as it saves everyone time.
• Avoid requesting books from authors unless they have specifically stated that they have books available for review.
• Request or accept only as many books as you can read.
• Don't beg for an ARC, but if you plan to do a large feature on a specific book or author, it's okay to ask politely. If the author can't oblige (or doesn't get back to you or in any way doesn't respond in the way you had hoped), be gracious anyway.
• Never badmouth an author, online or off, for not providing an ARC. They have all sorts of reasons for saying no, keep it professional.
• Don’t badmouth other bloggers or make assumptions about how they received ARCs. The cattiness makes authors reluctant to send ARCs to anyone.
• Even if an author can’t send an ARC, they may still be able to do an interview of guest post so make sure you ask. The author may be able to send you are ARC or finished copy next time around, so stay in touch.
• Take the time to familiarise yourself with the author and the book before contacting the author. Be sure that they book is something that genuinely strikes you interest as a reader/reviewer.
• Personalise your request. Don’t send a form email or with the incorrect information (wrong book title, misspelled names, asking for an ARC of an already released book). Tell the author about yourself and why their novel piqued your interest.
• If you request and receive a specific ARC directly from an author or publisher, you are expected to post a review.
• Don’t list the person in which you received your ARC from as it makes it easier for the masses to approach that person for a copy of their own. The publicist or author deserves privacy - list the company.
• Read the requested ARC in a reasonable amount of time. No one expects it to be read immediately but if you know you can’t get to it within 1-2 months there is no point in asking for an advance copy that might better serve another reviewer.
• Don’t sell ARCs on eBay.
• If you are giving an ARC away in a contest, consider letting the author know.

• Think before you request that an author provide prizes for the contests you are running on your blog. These requests inevitably flood an author’s inbox around the release date and it’s not financially feasible for an author to do it for everyone. If you demand swag, don’t expect a polite response.
• If the author hasn’t heard of you, you won’t be receiving swag no matter how legitimate a blog you have. When inquiring, ensure you introduce yourself and your blog to the author properly and state why you specifically would like their book.

• Correspondence between authors and bloggers is fantastic. However, it’s the bloggers responsibility to ensure that all of your reviews are unbiased, regardless of your relationship with an author.
• Ensure the content of your review is relevant and well written. Take your time when writing the reviews and ensure that all errors are caught prior to posting. People don’t read blogs that are a minefield of spelling errors and are generally careless.
• If you don't like a book, be honest but sensitive in your review. Personal attacks should be off-limits, but thoughtful comments about the work itself are not. Bloggers are very relevant to the review community but if everyone loves everything, bloggers lose relevance.
• Reviews should be honest but not harsh. If the book is terrible (in your opinion), tell the truth but realise that other readers may love it. Reviews are subjective.
• If the author has assisted you in procuring a copy of their book (directly or via their publishers), they like to know when the review is up. Make sure you send an email with the link attached.

• Check the author’s website for their interview policy. If a publicist is listed, contact them first, then the author if there is no publicist. Don’t contact both. Many authors don’t mind if you contact them directly but be polite.
• If you have asked an author for an interview and they say yes, pay close attention to what they write next. If they want the questions ASAP, then please follow these instructions.
• Don’t expect an author to answer your interview questions on a tight schedule. Give realistic timelines.
• If an author personally sends you their book for review ask them for an interview or guest blog for your blog.

General Manners
• Spell the individual’s name correctly - whether author/publisher/blogger.
• Reviewers should not ask authors for their publicist’s contact information and should not expect authors to forward the blogger’s information to the publicist (unless this is something the author offers).
• Bloggers shouldn’t ask other bloggers for their publicity contacts. Don’t tweet or post this private information in public chats.
• If you like a blogger’s feature, be sure to ask permission before adopting it for your own use. Don’t assume it is a meme.
• Don’t brag about receiving an ARC that everyone wants.
• Be polite and courteous to authors. You are not to beg or threaten them.
• Be polite and courteous to publishers. Don’t ask for every title in the catalogue. You can’t possibly have the time to read them all. Publishing is a business and it’s essential that you demonstrate that you are dependable and easy to work with.
• Don’t request or accept what you don’t want to read.
• The blogging community is a great way to make friends. Commenting on other’s blogs and discussing books is equally important as your own blog.
• Cover author events that you attend - there is nothing more exciting that sharing pictures and other coverage from conferences and author signings.
• If you are talking to an author face-to-face you may need to assure them that your conversation is “off the record”. Authors are human and they might not want their gossip on your blog.
• Authors are increasingly approachable with websites, blogs and twitter. Make sure that you mention their blogs and websites whenever you review or interview.
• Be grateful.

Thanks to all who gave their two cents worth, your honesty is much appreciated.

If you'd like a copy of this document, email me and I will send it your way in a prettier format.


Sarah Woodard said...

Adele! You are amazing. Love the list.

Windowpane Memoirs said...

GREAT post!


GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Adele-this is great! I have noticed more bloggers posting about how they received their books, due to the full disclosure policy that went into effect. I'm not sure it really crosses over to book blogs, but I have seen more people saying if they recieved the book from the author, publisher or library. I know I've started that recently just to make sure I'm covered.

mstohl said...

Great post, Adele! I can only speak to the writer side of things, but you got it spot on. As usual...

Anonymous said...

Speaking (anonymously) as an author, I second almost all of these great tips.

One thing I would love to see from book bloggers is outreach. Does your readership consist of only other book bloggers? If so, to be frank, you're not helping the authors whose books you read. Promote your own blog and grow your own readership and everyone wins.

Sometimes it's frustrating as an author to see the book blogs treat ARCs like baseball cards. It can feel like it's more about the collecting than about the books and reviews.

That said, what an incredible service the YA bloggers are performing for authors and publishers. Teens are gobbling up books, and you guys play a big part in that.

Khy said...

LOVE the post! It rocks. :D Agree with pretty much all of it.

Michelle Magill said...

Phew!! Held my breath while reading that, but all is well and it seems that I've not committed any blogging boo-boos.
Great idea putting that together. Thanks!

Lauren said...

This is a great post, thank you. As I just started a YA book blog last weekend, these tips will be really useful to me.

My feeling about getting ARCs is that it would be nice if that happened eventually, because I'd like to be able to review / promote books before release date... but with already-released books, as a working adult, I can afford to buy my own.

The comments from 'Anonymous' about outreach have given me food for thought too. I'm up for that.

Liz B said...

A lot of interesting items. I disagree with the one about posting where a review copy comes from, because I think that is a valuable bit of information for a blog reader to have, but I'll say this: your argument not to have it is the first one I've read that makes sense, in regards to authors. As for publicists, that's their job.

I think findine one's own voice is also important, and something that can take a bit of time to do. No one expects perfection out of the gate, and it may be best to develop that best and a strong amount of content on one's blog before contacting authors, publicists, & publishers. So waiting until a blog is a few months old can be good.

I also think it helps to know why one is blogging and what your audience is. Is it just to share books you like (or don't like)? Or is it to share books you think other people may like? Etc.

Great stuff!

A Passion For Books said...

Great post! I just started a YA book blog a month ago and these tips are very useful. I agree with waiting til you have blog for awhile before asking for ARC's.

Color Online said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

As an author, let me add a but. Yes, please, if your review is good, tell me it's up. But if it's bad, please don't. I promise, I will find it anyway.

Even though intellectually we know you're not linking your bad review to make us feel small, that's how we feel anyway. Have had so many convos with other authors, "Why did she send me this link?!"

And we don't know what to say, either. "Thanks for calling my book shallow and unappealing"? For bad reviews, and you will have to write bad reviews if you're honest, probably best to pretend you don't know the author exists at all.

Alexia561 said...

Great post! Learned a few things as well, and glad I haven't committed any big no-nos. Thanks so much for sharing this info!

Yan said...

I always read these types of posts and every time I feel uneasy afterwards. It's like "Am I one of these types of people?".

Diana Dang said...

That is most helpful, thank you.

Steph Su said...

Love this post, Adele, and hope that many people will see it and take it to heart. Keep up the amazing work!

Erin said...

Wonderful list of suggestions and very comprehensive. This definitely pertains to all areas of the book world not just YA. Great job!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thanks for all the work you put into this much needed reminder/primer. I linked to it from my new book blogger FAQ .

Sandy said...

What a great post! It's especially helpful to me since I'm new to the blogging world. I got a lot of questions cleared so thanks :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I am fairly new and this will help alot:)

Reverie said...

that is seriously SUCH great advice that we all can take into consideration. Plus it's something we all need to bookmark and go back to for reminding.

thanks adele!

Amanda Ashby said...

Adele - this is a great article and it's full of really excellent advice for authors as well as bloggers. As normal, you rock!!!!!

H said...

Thanks for putting this list together Adele! It's a great resource for us all :)

Color Online said...

Well, I did commit a boo-boo and I immediately wrote the bloggers. Two things were in my favor: 1)They call me their mentor and they saw my action as support and 2) I'm not really a book reviewer. I have a blog and I like to chat about books but I don't actively seek review copies.

Still, there's always something to learn and to be mindful. Appreciate the post.

JudiJ said...

And then there is the dark side of YA blogging:

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Fabulous post!

Unknown said...

Great list! I absolutely agree with whoever said "find the right balance between professionalism and fun." (Can I take credit for that one? :-) Sometimes we (and that includes yours truly) take ourselves too seriously for our own good.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I think bloggers are surprised when I tell then I have no arcs left. Authors usually receive very few and they are gone almost instantly.

Thanks for posting so many good tips.

Vanessa said...

Great post! Is it alright if I link to it from my tips and tricks page?

April (BooksandWine) said...

I just found this list and want to say how helpful it is!

Granted, I don't ask for ARCs, I've got way too many of my own books to read, but I do love all of your tips.

I will definitely have to tweet this!

Thank you Adele!

Chapter Chicks said...

This was really helpful! Thanks so much for posting it!

Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) said...

This is a seriously awesome, in-depth post that will be a contatant reference to me in my current and future blogging endeavors. *bows* thank you for taking the time to put this together!

Fiction Spark said...

I'm a new blogger. Thank you so much for sharing these helpful tips. God Bless...

Martina said...

Thanks for this. It was a great help.

Meadowlark Layne said...

This is fabulous. Thank you for all your hard work in putting this together.

It's difficult when starting out to know what's appropriate. I tend to shy away from things because I'm not sure... this gives solid guidelines and the confidence to know when it "is" okay to ask.

Jim said...

Wow, fantastic tips! Thanks so much for putting these together.